Sunday, March 30, 2008

March 29, 2008 Visit from Women's Book Community in Gainsville, Fl

On March 29, 2008, seven women from the University of Florida, Gainsville visited me and participated in our Mary, Mother of Jesus House Church liturgy. I shared some of the highlights from our year of growth as faith community committed to Gospel equality. This included a look through my scrap book which features pictures of ordinations, house church celebrations, controversy with the Diocese of Venice, newspaper articles etc. Jeff Swicord, from Voice of America-TV flew down from Washington DC to do interviews and to film our Mass.
Marcia Copel Chester, a Jewish neighbor joined us and shared the story of how an interfaith spirituality gathering of women called me forth for priestly ordination in 2005. She recounted the story of the joy they expressed when they heard that I was invited to the first North American ordinations .They clearly called me forth to be "their priest". On this occasion, Marcia volunteered to be "our parking lot angel " which consists of coordinating the street parking in our neighborhood, Over 30 people attended this liturgy, including new people from as far south as Englewood and a snowbird visiting from Buffalo.
Our dialogue homily focuses on the early church experience of house churches. I led our reflection with the story of Mary, mother of John Mark, a leader of one of the house churches in Jerusalem. She was an independent woman wih conisderable resources, including a spacious home which became an imporant center for first-century Christians to meet for worship and prayer. Some commentators believe that Mary presided at Eucharist there and that her home was the headquarters of the Jerusalem church. She was the mother of John Mark a coworker of Paul and a cousin of Barnabas, a missionary apostle in the church of Jerusalem. Mary knew Peter. Since her son worked with Paul, she probably had some connection with Paul. The Acts of the Apostles tells the story of Peter's escape from prison to Mary's home. Peter went immediately to Mary's house church where many membes of the Christian community were praying. Peter knocked at the gate. Rhoda, the maid, came to answer and upon recognizing Peter's voice, she was so overwhelmed that, instead of letting Peter in, she rushed back to tell the community, leaving Peter standing at the gate. At first, the community didn't belive her. Meanshile Peter kept knocking and when they opened the gate they were overjoyed to see him. peter then told them the details fo teh miraculous rescue. he instructed them to tell James and the other believers. Then he left. It seems that Mary's house church was the place where believers in jerusalem came regularly to pray and to seek refuge when their lives were threatened. According to the scriptures, there were a number of other women whose names and house churches were also mentioned. Like Mary, their homes also were the first Christian chruches.
These include Chloe (1Cor 1:11); Lydia (Acts 16:40); Nymphan (Col. 4:15) and Prisca (Rom. 16
:3, 5)
We have come full circle as reclaim our ancient tradition of "house churches" in grassroots Catholic communities in a renewed priestly ministry in a community of equals! Roman Catholic Womenpriests are working in grassroots communities from British Columbia in Canada to Southwest Florida.

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